Alison May ’97 Will Head Student Accessibility Services

May wants to ensure that all Dartmouth students have the positive experience she had.

Alison May ’97 will become Dartmouth’s next director of Student Accessibility Services, Kathryn Lively, dean of the College, announced today. May, who will be an assistant dean, will take over for Ward Newmeyer, who plans to retire in September.

“I want to thank Ward for 13 years of dedicated service to Dartmouth, promoting and enabling student success,” says Lively. “And I am thrilled that Alison is coming back to campus. Blending rigorous scholarship and practical experience, she will work collaboratively with faculty to make sure that every student is well equipped to take advantage of what the College has to offer, inside and outside our classrooms.”

May comes to Dartmouth from Northwestern University, where she has been assistant dean of students and director of AccessibleNU, which provides services for students with disabilities on five Northwestern campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

She promotes universal design for learning, a framework for teaching students based on scientific insights about how people learn. Among her responsibilities: collaborating with students and faculty to determine accommodations and services, supervising the university’s testing center, providing and arranging academic coaching for students, and raising awareness about disabilities as a form of diversity.

Lisa Baldez, a professor of government and of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies who was involved in the interview process, says May’s rich and varied experience in academic support services made her an exceptionally strong candidate.

“Since graduating from Dartmouth, Alison has dedicated her career to issues surrounding student accessibility. She is keenly aware of the challenges that accessibility presents for university students, staff, and faculty, and she comes to us with ample experience, deep knowledge, and brilliant ideas,” says Baldez.

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Alison May ’97 has been named director of Student Accessibility Services and assistant dean
Alison May ’97 has been named director of Student Accessibility Services and assistant dean (Photo courtesy Alison May ’97)

May received her bachelor’s degree cum laude in psychology from Dartmouth and her PhD in learning disabilities from Northwestern. Her doctoral program is part of the communication sciences and disorders department, which emphasizes the evaluation and treatment of speech-language disorders and audiological conditions as well as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

In addition to working at Northwestern, she has taught and directed programs supporting first-generation and low-income students, and students with disabilities at Oakton Community College and Columbia College Chicago. 

Her interest in providing accessibility services in higher education began when she was attending Dartmouth. “I got my start as a work-study student in the Academic Skills Center. Nancy Pompian, the disability services director from 1987 to 2005, became a mentor, inspiring me to go into the field. When I left Dartmouth in 1997 for Northwestern’s doctoral program in learning disabilities, I always dreamed of returning to Dartmouth’s small-town, close-knit setting and of following in Nancy’s footsteps, trying to make a significant impact on the way Dartmouth undergraduates live and learn.”

May will report to Brian Reed, dean of undergraduate students. She begins work on Sept. 3, and says she’s looking forward to helping current students gain access to the same positive experiences she had when she was an undergraduate.

“It feels a little funny to be packing up for Dartmouth all over again, 22 years after I arrived here as a student,” she says. “I don’t have all the same clothes I had then, but I’ll still be bringing my Birkenstocks.”

Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected].